The painting and the slide deck – some common learnings

Each day, thousands of people visit art galleries to view paintings of many different forms and sizes. The painting has long represented an embodiment of expression and emotion that people enjoy. It provides a unique form of communication and how life situations can be depicted. The right blend of colour and perspective generates a special visual experience.

In a similar vein in business each day, thousands of executives are either delivering or listening to presentations that are shaped around a slide deck of some form. But in many cases, the slide deck and the presentation provide an under-whelming experience for the viewer.

But are there learnings we can take from the humble painting? What are some of its features we can consider in a business situation?

Indeed, there are many learnings we can take from the painting and how these can apply in the business presentation context. The painting represents a powerful medium of expression and communication, both of which are vital elements in a business. Three aspects of the painting stand out:

1. The painting provides a real point of focus

One of the enduring features of a good painting is the focus it provides on a person or situation. This is captured forever by the artist and is there for all to enjoy.

But the presentation deck often lacks focus. Yes there may be a general theme or topic that is highlighted, but that is often lost in the details or in the way the presentation is structured. Just as a visual focus is important for an artist, the focus in a presentation deck is fundamental for its success.

2. The painting provides impact

A good painting generates real impact and provides that “wow” moment for the viewer. It provides an impact that can be remembered.

The presentation deck is often a medium that is lacking in impact. It can provide an almost bland response to a question or an issue, and which can lead to a lack of impact on the listeners. An audience can exit a presentation puzzled as to what they really learned. Impact is not only the domain of the artist, and the same applies strongly to the presentation deck.

3. The painting provides an experience that goes beyond mere colours and content

People remember a good painting because it provides them with an experience and strong level of engagement. People feel they are part of a broader sphere, perhaps getting inside the mind of both the artist and the subject.

But the experience of the presentation deck can be seriously lacking. It may generate little or no experience as such. Indeed, the presentation deck can have the opposite effect and be almost alienate an audience.

These three points from the world of art can be applied strongly for presentation decks – focus, impact and experience. A combination of these factors can make the presentation experience more effective, and can also have a broader and positive impact on the business over time.

This provides a challenge to the authors of all those presentation deck that are shaped every day. They need to be different and move beyond the standard and the repetitious. As French artist Henri Matisse stated, “creativity takes courage”.


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